Bible Study in Gratitude PII
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Before electronic ignition systems, you had to fine-tune the timing of your car to control the firing of the sparkplugs, and the "dwell" was the tiny screw you turned to accomplish this. The "dwell," a small component inside of the car's distributor, would cause the very powerful engine in a very large car to run smoothly and well or else harshly or not at all. All it took was a fraction of a turn of a small screw. Have you considered that you have a "dwell" too? The Bible says so (John 5:37-39; Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:9-14; 3:15-17; Rev. 12:12)!
What dwells in you when your life has its ills? What controls your thoughts and rules your will? What are your responses and attitudes? If you are a person created, bought and paid for, forgiven, and then saved by Christ, you should be extremely grateful. A deep-seated gratitude should be the central theme of your life, flowing from Christ's love, principles, and character and the Holy Spirit's leading. What comes from us in good times and bad should be indicated by what goes in us. Being led by God and His Word and motivated by our appreciation of His work will enable us to be more filled with the Spirit of God to do the work of God. God's principles and our reverence and thanks are all needed and essential for the healthy Christian and church; they all go together. One cannot be an effective Christ-follower without gratitude or without His lead. You cannot say the Spirit fills you by being emotionally ecstatic while you ignore God's Word or move closer to Him or lead others when you are a person who is ungrateful. Christ must be our "dwell;" our indication gage will be our thankfulness.
Think this through: what (or who) gives you hope, reason, purpose, meaning, and motivation in life? This will be what you plant, cultivate, and grow in your mindset that influences your attitude, outlook, and actions. This will be your theme in life. You will either have a life filled with hope or one of despair; either joy or dissatisfaction, and either contentment or dissatisfaction will spew out from us-all dependent upon how you respond and resound to His giving. Is it gratitude or ingratitude? A real Christian is someone who is being filled and managed by Christ and not by apprehensions, selfishness, turmoil, damaged past, or uncertainty. These things will be a part of our past and we may face them now and/or encounter them later in life; the question is, how will you deal with them (Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:8-6:9, Col. 3:19-4:1)?
This Thessalonians passage concludes Paul's remarks in a letter to a church where he reminds them of what is important and how one should be in order to live a life that reflects our Lord's life as He desires and calls us to magnify. In so doing, joy and thanksgiving can be our "dwell," our life themes, for these are essential for us to express our faith and hone our attitude. This does not mean we wear a fake smile and/or pretend to be happy when our world falls apart; rather, it is a mindset and a reminder to keep us centered on our Lord (Psalm 28; John 11:35-38).
We are to have Christ as our Supreme Lord, living in us so He can also guide us, tune us, and help us run smoothly. Otherwise, we would run roughly-or not at all. This helps us comprehend our abundance in Christ and His promise to reside in and guide us. We need to know that when we realize that Christ Himself is dwelling in us, we are then motivated by Him to bear and take Him and His precepts of fruit and character, joy and contentment wherever we go. This is a powerful, convicting tool and is to be our prime motivation as we realize He is our blessing. Then, we can better live out our Christian walk with His power, conviction, clarity, and truth, because He is not in heaven, aloof, or just watching. He resides in us now (Psalm 119:11; Matt. 13:9; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 1:30; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:17; 5:18-19; Phil. 2:16; Col. 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:15)!
How do we do this? Set our "dwell!" As Hebrews tells us, fix our eyes on Jesus; we are to look to Him, concentrate on Him, and focus on Him. When we concentrate our prayers, thoughts, and attitudes on Jesus and not wander from Him, He becomes our goal and reason for all we do in life. Just like in any sports event, we have to keep our eyes on the ball to play well. For Christians, Christ is the target; He helps us persevere and gives us the empowerment and encouragement we need to do so. He is our main trainer and equipper. His is far greater than any mere encouragement from either outside or inside the church-after all, He is God who loves and lives in us. Thus, when we look to Him as our motivation and not circumstances or obstacles, we become grateful. If not, we become bitter (Isa. 53: 10-12; Phil. 3:10-14; Heb. 1:3; 2:10; 12:1-3).
What Does Gratitude Helps Us Do?
Live life well, be a blessing, be content, and have a great attitude and outlook in life! When we have the right attitude and aptitude to set our minds on Him, we can be of better use to those around us-powerfully and effectively. Our words and deeds will show His love and care. Our relationships and the details of our conversations will ooze of His love and precepts because our minds will be focused on Him and our hearts poured out to Him. People will see this; this will be our prime witnessing tool. Some may come against us, but that is their problem. God will use us as the means to show Christ to others so they can receive the power and impact of the Spirit. What an incredible opportunity we have! Let us make the most of it!
· You will have more Faith! Your faith springs from your growth and intimacy in Christ. As we are given faith, we make more, and we will trust, rest, and be content as we look to our Lord in gratitude for what He has done (Col. 1:1-8).
· You will have more Love. This is a fruit of faith and shows our authenticity and allows us to serve. Our gratitude lives in the present as it looks outward to others (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 13; 1 John 3:14; James 2:14).
· You will have more Hope. This is not "hope" as in wishful thinking; rather, it is full confidence and assurance in Christ that leads to greater trust and faith and deeper love. Hope is a prime reason for us to be grateful. It also anticipates and looks forward to the future (Rom. 5:2; Gal. 5:5; Tit. 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:3).
· You will have more Joy. This is also a fruit of faith that will allow us to enjoy our relationship with Christ, His creation, others, and our circumstances with an expression of delight. It gives us harmony with God and with others (Psalm 32:7-9; Proverbs 15:13; John 15:11; 17:13; 2 Cor 12:9; James 1:1-4; 1 Peter 4:12-19; Heb 10:34)!
· You will be in Blameless. We will have peace with God as a result of being justified by faith. By the same token, we can be better at dealing with sin and disappointments and at living according to His requirements (Rom. 5:1; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:19).
· You will be Patient. Instead of whining, complaining, and theorizing about when and why things happen, we will trust in God's timing and providence. It is because of God's patience that He has the will to save us, for we tempt His patience all of the time (Gen. 6).
· You will be in God's Will. You will be better at applying your faith, implementing His precepts into your practice, examining what you need to do for God, and asking if you are allowing Him to do so (Matt. 6:33-34; Rom. 12:1-3).
· You will be more in Prayer. You will be better at coming to God through discussion, learning, and relationship building. You will be better at giving yourself to Christ as He has given Himself to you (Matthew 6: 5-15; 7: 7-12; John 14:12-14; Rom 5:1; Phil. 3:1-14).
· You will have more contentment. We will see heaven as our ultimate hope and future residence. These future rewards can also fuel our appreciation (by our motivation) for those who are righteous-righteous only by receiving Christ's righteousness (Acts 1:10-11; Rom. 5:2; 1 Cor. 15:16-19; Heb. 7:25; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; 1 John 2:1).
Keep in mind that Faith, Hope, and Love all go together and become synergy for life and practice. These are central and crucial gifts from God, aspects of the resulting new life we have in Christ, who is the source of these virtues. They are compiled from our trust in God and His sovereignty and are called a trilogy of virtue, as they help create our joy and contentment as well as our worship and praise of Christ because we see, internalize, and live out our faith in Christ fueled by our gratitude to Christ. They are also our security, as we have the great loving and creating God in us. Why would we prefer our own limited, feeble ways and thinking (Rom. 5:2-5; 1 Cor. 13:1-13; Gal. 5:5-6; Eph. 1:4; 2:8; 1 Thess. 1:3, 7-8; 5:8; Heb. 10:22-24; 11:6; 1 Peter 1:3-5, 22)?
Where is your "dwell" set; how does this affect your thanksgiving?
Questions to Ponder:
1. When Jesus does something special for you-salvation for one thing-how do you respond? How should you?
2. What "dwells" in you when life does not go your way? What is your response and attitude?
3. What controls your "dwell," as in your thoughts and will? How does setting your "dwell" on gratitude help? How can it be better?
4. What gives you hope, reason, purpose, meaning, and motivation in life? How does what you plant, cultivate, and grow in your mindset influence your attitude, outlook, and actions in life?
5. What does it mean to you that as a Christian, you are a person created, bought, and paid for, and then forgiven and saved by Christ? How does this influence your gratitude? How can your contentment be better? How does gratitude help?
6. How does gratitude affect how your faith works? How does gratitude affect your trust in Christ?
7. How does gratitude affect your character, forgiveness, and Fruit of the Spirit? How do you live your life in response?
8. Do you make it your duty to give and be appreciative to the One who has given you so much? How and why?
9. What causes you to recoil in your fears or anger or to remain in your pride? How do these things prevent you from doing anything of Kingdom value?
10. What can you do to better live out your Christian walk with His power, conviction, clarity, and truth? How will gratitude play a part? What will your life look like and your relationships with God, self, and others be like then?
11. How would you describe ingratitude? How does this affect your life and church? What can you do about it?
12. How can you use gratitude to help you be more thankful towards others? How will this help you venture further in the faith so you can also be an encourager to others?
John tells us in his Gospel that He (Christ) must increase and we (our will and mindsets) must decrease. (John 3:29-30) If we refuse this vital call of being grateful, God just may allow those hardships to come our way, breaking us down so we will yield and grow as His child. Just as good and loving parents will discipline their child, God will discipline us. But, this is not a personal attack; rather, it is a way to help us grow and be better used by our Lord (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:27; 1 Thess. 4:3; 5:23-24; 1 Pet. 1:5).
More passage to reflect upon on how gratitude affects all you are and do in life: Psalm 55:22; Matthew 4:18-20; 5:22, 37; 12: 33-37; 15:1-20; Romans 5:3-5; 8:38-39; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Ephesians 4; Colossians 1:21-23; 3:15-17; 4:2-6; 1Timothy 1:10; James 1:3; 3:6; Revelation 21:8
© 2009, R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org/